Third Sunday of the Year
I want to start this week with a current football reference, so you sports haters, bear with me because this relates to the second reading for this Sunday. A while back the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback, Peyton Manning, complained that when Indianapolis wins, the press announces that the team won, but when it loses the press portrays the story as another Manning loss. Someone also mentioned that Tom Brady, the New England quarterback, is often portrayed as a winner in big games, and indeed he has superbowl rings to prove it, but in two of those games if the field goal kicker had not made a last minute score, Brady would be portrayed as a loser not a winner. Yes, Brady is a great player, and so is Manning, but neither one of them can win a football game alone. They are dependent on the rest of the team performing well.
A while back I went to one of the girls’ district soccer matches. One team, East Lake, had six or seven members of our parish playing. One of these girls was a star. She scores a lot of goals, and I saw her score one of the two she had that night. But, she did not win the game alone. Nor could she. The game was won by the goalie, the defense, and the other players that scored or passed well, as well as the girl who scored twice. The game was also won by the girls who never got in to play, but practiced hard and doing so allowed their teammates to develop their skills.
Now, should the goalie who made a great save or the girl from our parish who stopped a drive on the goal think less of themselves because they didn’t score goals? Of course not. The team won because it is a team.
We are all on a team, Team Christ, if you will. We all have certain roles to play, certain positions to maintain for the sake of the team, to help the team win the great contest: the battle for God’s Kingdom on earth, the battle against the forces of evil that are continually waging war on each of us and all of us. The position that we have on Team Christ is determined by our general vocation in life for each stage of our lives. Some are good Catholic mothers. Others are good Catholic fathers. Both are necessary so the next round of troops, their children, can learn how to integrate masculine and feminine gifts into their Christianity. Some are married but have no children, or their children have moved on with their lives. These are called to sustain the Team by filling the world with the sacrificial love of Christ that is the foundation of the Christian marriage.
Some are single, perhaps looking to marry, perhaps not called to marriage, or perhaps made single by the death of their spouse or by a marriage that was never a real marriage. Should the single live for themselves as wild bachelors or immoral seniors, or what have you, then Team Christ would be deprived of their ability to devote their time and energy to serving Christ. Our parish has many, many wonderful singles who cannot do enough to serve Christ in all sorts of different ways.
Some of our very senior seniors have refused to give up working for the Kingdom, even though they cannot leave their homes. They spend all day praying for us, calling down God’s grace and strength upon the rest of us.
Some of us have been called to the priesthood or religious life. We are called to serve the Team in Word and Sacrament, to make intercession for the members of the team before God, and to do battle against evil as priests and religious.
We all have unique positions to play on God’s team.
If a foot should say,"Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. That is from our second reading for today from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
Along with our general call as singles, married, parents, priests, etc, we are all given unique ways of reflecting God’s love in the world. The key word here is unique. God has given each of us unique talents, unique ways that we can reflect His Presence and be part of the Body of Christ in this world. Our concern should be to develop these talents well to serve the Lord. We should not be concerned with whether or not we have the particular talent another person has. Some of us have beautiful singing voices and can minister in the choir. Others would serve the Lord better by not joining the choir. We all have different talents, unique talents.
Our spiritual gifts are also unique. It is incorrect for someone to consider whether or not he or she is as spiritual as someone else. There really is no such thing as a spiritual norm. We are called to be spiritual, but in different ways. Sadly, so often we hold ourselves back from proclaiming the Gospel according to our talents because we see ourselves as inferior to others. What St. Paul is saying is that we need to have some spiritual self esteem. Every person here is spiritual, but no two people are spiritual in the same way.
There is a certain joy to all this. God loves each of us individually for whom we are. He doesn’t love us for the ways that we are like others. He loves us for the way that we are the unique reflections of His Love. And the way that we are unique reflections of His Love is the role we have been called to fill in the great contest of the Battle of the Kingdom.
The coach says to the athlete, “Maybe you want to be a striker, but you are really not fast enough. But you are tough, and you have a strong leg. So get out there and play a solid defense. This is what you can do best at this stage of your life, so get out there and do it well.”
We all need to find the best ways that we can serve the Lord according to our particular talent and stage in life. And we need to go out there and compete against the forces of evil, compete for Team Jesus, and use our unique talents to win the world over for the Kingdom of God.
That is why we were created, as the old Baltimore Catechism would say: to know, love and serve God in this world and to be with Him in the next.